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Year 9, Term 4 Project, Week 1:

In term three we discussed the merits of Junior exams and made the decision to continue with exams for year 10, but not year 9. This then meant that each faculty had to spend time planning and developing a unit of learning for their curriculum area for year 9. The English faculty chose to develop supporting materials for learners to choose their own project and, using the Design Thinking model, create a prototype solution for a Wicked problem. This was heavily influenced by the Accelerator workshop that my colleague, Christine Emery, and myself had completed earlier in the year.

We introduced the idea to the rest of the faculty who were very supportive of the idea – thankfully! This project will not be assessed but the most voted for projects will be presented to a panel of experts and there will be prizes. It can be a challenge for teachers to let go of the idea of assessment and also of being in control of everything that happens in a lesson so to have support for this idea is encouraging.

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The first lesson was spent introducing the idea and the process of Design Thinking to learners. I used The Launch Cycle developed by John Spencer and AJ Juliani. Then learners discussed Wicked problems and wrote a problem on sticky notes which were then stuck on walls and windows around the classroom. They then walked around the room and looked at all the problems and chose one that they would like to develop a prototype solution for. Once they had done this, learners formed groups and discussed their problem and possible solutions. The class was abuzz with discussion and ideas for solutions. I conferenced with each group and helped them to clarify their ideas.

Towards the end of the lesson, I stopped the class and they shared their first thoughts about what they might do. Learners naturally asked questions and gave ideas which was pretty cool as this is something that I was going to ask of them after the first pitch at the end of the week. I then introduced the SMART goal and asked each group to download a template to complete from Google Classroom. As this project is very learner-directed, I wanted to ensure that they stayed focused and on task by making goals at the beginning of each week. Each group made a goal for the week and I checked it before they left for the day.

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The next day, learners entered the class chatting excitedly about their project. The projects are varied with one group tackling the problem of littering by planning to collect rubbish, clean it, and then create a rubbish sculpture in the shape of a whale tale which is an image from our school logo. Another group is planning to develop a prototype net which has magnets on it and will be used to collect rubbish from the sea. The magnets will attract cans and other metal rubbish. This group initially planned to develop a solution to their perception of terrible internet speed at school. When they explained this issue to me it was quite difficult to bite my tongue and not dissuade them from continuing with this project. I’m glad I did resist the urge because they came to the conclusion that it would not be a viable project themselves. Sometimes we just have to trust learners and not think that they can’t come to conclusions themselves!

Learners researched what had already been done to address the problem they had chosen and continued discussing ideas. There were one or two groups that had still not settled on a problem so I chatted with them to help but did not tell them what to do. About halfway through the lesson I introduced the Kanban board and explained that it could be useful for tracking tasks and who was responsible for each task. each group then created a Kanban board using paper and sticky notes. They were then stapled to the wall behind where each group is based.

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On day three of the project, I showed the class a short video which explained how to give a 60-second elevator pitch. I then explained that they would be pitching their idea to the class the following day and gaining feedback on their ideas using the RISE peer feedback model. Learners who had not quite decided on their problem were then forced into making a decision. Time was spent continuing to research; deciding on a prototype solution; and creating their elevator pitch.

Day four began with learners finishing their elevator pitch slide shows. We then spent the second half of the lesson listening to each pitch; giving feedback using the RISE Peer feedback model developed by Emily Wray, and then making notes about what needed to be modified on each project.

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It has been an awesome week and I have been blown away by the energy and enthusiasm for the project. There was a moment on the first day where I felt that some people were not taking their learning seriously so I did give a warning about reintroducing the exam. There have been no problems since! I hope that my learners continue to be enthusiastic about what they are doing and that some amazing prototypes are created.

Watch this space!

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